Edinburgh's Astley Ainslie Hospital: patient's appeal in art to preserve distinctive buildings
Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.
The hospital site in The Grange has been earmarked eventually for new housing, although NHS Lothian said last year plans to sell it were in abeyance because they did not have the money needed to replace the facilities elsewhere.
A trust was established some time ago in a bid to secure community ownership of the site and ensure as much of the green space as possible survives.
But Kenneth Montgomery, who has been a patient at the Astley Ainslie on and off for 40 years, is also keen that many of the hospital’s buildings are kept.
He is a student at Leith School of Art and chose to focus on the Astley Ainslie for his paintings, six of which are now included in the class’s end-of-year show at St Margaret’s House in London Road this week.
"Our theme for the year was how you connect to the landscape and I hose the Astley Ainslie because I like buildings, I had a personal connection and I know other people who often walk through the grounds for exercise. There are so many people connected to the hospital in so many different ways.”
Mr Montgomery spent time as a in-patient at the Astley Ainslie when he was a child, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, and has attended as an out-patient over the past four decades.
He said he also had to go a lot to the Princess Margaret Rose hospital at Fairmilehead. “I saw what happened to that – it got demolished and made into houses and flats. It had beautiful grounds too. But the Astley Ainslie grounds are really spectacular and I would hate to see that happen there as well.”
He said both hospitals were laid out to make them feel like a small village where everyone was friendly. “This is in stark contrast to the newer style hospitals that are like large office buildings with function and performance at the forefront rather than the patient experience.”
And he believes people often overlook the importance of the buildings. “They concentrate on the environmental stuff and I agree with that, but these buildings were built for a reason and have great individual character. They tell a story and there are plaques around the Astley Ainslie that give you little snippets of the history of the grounds and some of the buildings. They also tell the story of the changing times and role of the buildings.”
He acknowledges some buildings would have to go in any redevelopment. But he said: "Some of the older buildings have little roof lanterns and things like that, which you don't see on buildings any more, and I’d love to see all that kept and it used for community use or housing for disabled people or something. I just don't want to see it turned into block after block of flats or a hotel.”
Leith School of Art’s landscapes exhibition is at Edinburgh Palette, St Margaret’s House, 151 London Road. Its opening night is tonight, 6-8pm, and the show runs Thursday-Sunday, 11am-5pm, with a “Meet the artists” day on Saturday, between 1pm and 4pm, when the artists will be present to talk about their work.